Technology as Curriculum

During a recent conversation with a PK-8 principal, she asked a general question regarding which technology subjects were appropriate for which grade levels. It shortly became clear that she was referring to the teaching of technology classes separate from other subject area classes. In other words, technology as curriculum. She mentioned that when the computer teacher arrived with his laptop cart, the classroom teachers departed. I was taken back a bit. I thought we were beyond that in our journey toward achieving Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s ‘R’ for Redefinition-“Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” A quick review of the technology position advertisements published online since the beginning of the year will show that at the K-8 level, we are not far along that path. About half ads are for a ‘Computer Teacher’ or some variant. In many schools, not only is technology being taught as a separate subject, technology is neither included in the subject areas’ curricula nor is it being integrated into the classrooms. Even job descriptions for Technology Coordinators include teaching computer classes.

I realize that, as Lynda Ginsburg writes, “from the perspective of maximizing the acquisition of information about and competence in using specific technology applications, a curriculum focused on the computer and its applications might be desirable. Components of such a curriculum include keyboarding skills, database manipulation, spreadsheet use, word processing, desktop and Internet publishing, and Internet search skills. Hands-on opportunities to develop a comfort level with the various applications and discussions about the kinds of tasks that might be best managed with each application would provide a basis for using the technology in the various situations in which it is appropriate.” ( I guess I would even include digital citizenship and safety, for sure, and coding, for now.

But, back to the question, what subjects at what levels? That depends entirely on each school’s grade level learner objectives. Subject area teachers and the adopted subject areas curricula should be our guides. Once students have developed an application comfort level appropriate to the grade level, technology as curriculum should ease out and true classroom and curriculum integration should begin. The learning process should progress toward achieving the ‘M’ and ‘R’ of Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR model. Technology learning occurs best and is best retained when learners develop skills and experiences in contexts that are similar to those in which technology is used elsewhere within and without the classroom. For example, after a few orientation classes on the basics of word processing to the point that the student demonstrates comfort opening the application, performing a few basic editing functions, saving documents, printing, and closing the application, the responsibility for advancing word processing learning is exported to the language arts teacher/classroom. In most schools, this could occur as early as early as 1st grade.

Of course, there are curriculum development, resource, and profession development hurdles. How to work around these finance driven issues, is another matter.